Wellington, FL - Under the floodlights of the International Arena in Wellington, Florida, the first 5* competition of the 2014 FTI Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF) was dominated by the world’s top two riders who went head to head in a tense competition, with World Number Two Ben Maher taking the honours from his fellow Britain and World Number One, Scott Brash, in the FEI World Cup Grand Prix CSI-W 5* presented by Rolex.
Watched by a big crowd enjoying the warm Florida evening, clear rounds were hard to come by on a tough and demanding track set by Olympic course designer, Bob Ellis, and Maher was one of only seven horse and rider combinations that went clear from 45 starters.
Maher had the advantage of going last into the jump-off and was able to benefit from knowing exactly the line to take, but the leading time set by Brash still looked tough to beat. But Cella, owned by Jane Clark, was up to the task and with a winning margin of 0.41 seconds, Maher took the honours. Third on the winner’s podium was Lucy Davis from the United States, who was watched over from the stands by her trainer and Rolex Testimonee, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum.
Speaking about the WEF Ben Maher said, “I think that the biggest advantage of being here at the Winter Equestrian Festival is that we get to spend a lot more time on our horses, and are able to give them one on one attention. Tomorrow, the first thing I will do is ride Cella. I notice things here in Wellington that I wouldn’t when competing in different competitions each weekend. That is one of the biggest benefits of staying in one place for a longer period of time.”
This is the first year of an unprecedented 10-year partnership between WEF and Rolex which was announced in December 2013. Rolex became the “Official Timepiece” of both the Palm Beach International Equestrian Centre and the WEF.
This follows on from the launch of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping in April the same year, which features the three equestrian ‘Majors’ – the CHIO Aachen, the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament and CHI Geneva – and is the first global initiative to reward the outstanding rider who wins the Grand Prix at each show in succession.